|UW-Oshkosh has picked off
seven passes, led by three by Tim Filter, and thrown just one all
UW-Oshkosh athletics photo
Having the talent, and not getting injured.
Those reasons have played a huge role in the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh's first 6-0 start in 89 years.
"It's 100 percent the reason," Titans coach Pat Cerroni said. "You've got to give credit to our strength coach for taking care of our team's bodies. It's worked out for us."
Oshkosh is in a first place tie on top of the WIAC with three-time defending national champion UW-Whitewater after a 34-13 victory against UW-Platteville last week. The 10th ranked Titans travel to face the fifth ranked Warhawks Saturday to have the upper hand in the league. Whitewater lost for the first time in 47 games earlier in the season to Buffalo State 7-6. Since then, the Warhawks have reeled off four straight victories.
"It's just like walking into a hornets’ nest," Cerroni said. "Buffalo State just shook up the hornets’ nest. They didn't lose their talent, they didn't lose their coaches. They're a great program. We're pretty good, I don't know if we're good enough."
Titans senior quarterback Nate Wara has been near-flawless this season. Wara has completed 102 of 157 passes for 1,311 yards and 10 touchdowns. He only has been intercepted once. On the ground, Wara adds 485 yards on 88 carries and five touchdowns.
"Nate Wara makes plays," Cerroni said. "That's what he does."
Wara's biggest target has been Caleb Voss, who has 25 catches for 493 yards and three touchdowns and Zach Kasuboski adds 285 yards and two touchdowns on a team-high 27 catches. In the backfield, Cole Myhra leads the Titans with 574 yards on 105 carries and five touchdowns.
The Titans have also been inspired by past players that continue to call the university home.
"We had 19 seniors last year, probably five of them still come to practice," Cerroni said. "It's really a family atmosphere. Everybody is just trying to help the program."
Those seniors nearly knocked off Whitewater a season ago in a 20-17 decision in where the Titans were up 17-10 at halftime. So, the Titans know they can stand toe-to-toe with the champs.
"We're not supposed to win this game, so what pressure is there?' Cerroni said. "Just like last year, we are not supposed to win this game."
Coe moves to 6-0 after thrilling win
Coe fondly remembers a season ago when the tables were turned against Dubuque. The Kohawks and Spartans played to a 49-42 contest in favor of the Spartans. With the win, Dubuque won the IIAC. This season, the Kohawks pulled out a 41-38 win in double overtime and moved to 6-0 for the first time since 1997. A big difference from last year was the Coe defense did stop the Spartans by forcing them to punt nine times, much different than last year.
"Our kids remembered that game last year," Coe coach Steve Staker said. "That was kind of a back-and-forth affair. In that game, they did not punt once. We felt our defense has gotten a lot better."
The Kohawks, now ranked 25th are 3-0 in the IIAC and travel to Simpson, who is also 3-0 in the league and 5-1 overall.
"It's no surprise to us," Staker said of Simpson. "They're probably the most improved team in the league. They beat perennial conference powers Central and Wartburg back to back. They are playing with a lot of confidence."
As are the Kohawks.
Coe quarterback Jared McNutt has adjusted well to being the starter after sitting behind two-time league MVP Brad Boyle. McNutt has 1,359 yards passing and 11 touchdowns against just four interceptions. He has completed 93 of 139 of his passes. Jared Kuehner has been McNutt's main target with 526 yards on 32 catches and six touchdowns. Keaton Juergens adds 16 catches on 332 yards and two touchdowns.
"I really believe that he had a great mentor ahead of him and paid attention, he's also had that senior leadership," Staker said. "He's pretty humble, not a selfish kid at all."
Staker said he might even be better than Boyle in some aspects.
"He throws a tight spiral and gets it right there, he's pretty accurate," Staker said. He might have a stronger arm than Brad."
Additionally the other side of the ball has been solid for the Kohawks led by safety Demetreus Johnson and defensive lineman Frank Weymiller.
"Our defense has been really pretty good about stopping the run," Staker said. We had four linebackers that all graduated. The guys have stepped in and done a great job of being aggressive and getting after it. Defense has been the biggest surprise."
Behind the number
The last time Bethel had been shut out prior to Saturday's 37-0 loss to No.4 St. Thomas. The Royals dropped six spots to No. 15 in the D3football.com Top 25 and it's the fourth shutout by St. Thomas in the past two seasons.